Have you noticed this reflex from babies? When you reach a finger to them, the first thing they will do (even when they still have their eyes closed) is to grasp! This has been observed on both human and chimp babies! Babies grasp things that are close to their hands to survive!
It’s called the Palmar Grasp Reflex. You did it when you were a baby. But what you didn’t know is that it’s a vestigial instinct from our primate ancestors. Evolution, baby! Vestigial, or vestige, means a “track” of something that was once useful, but is no longer needed, like a foot print.
Why Babies Grasp Things
Now, babies grasp anything that comes near them because our primate ancestors needed to secure themselves to their parents by grasping on their parent’s body, which is covered with hair!
- Imagine a startled primate with a child; there’s a predator nearby
- In order to escape with its child, it needs to rely on its baby’s strong grip on its body (which, over the course of evolution, still remains to human babies up to six months of age)
- The primate can then easily run and climb trees without worrying about its child, because it’s automatically clung to its body!
Isn’t that cute? There’s a little monkey inside of us!